Mature Donors: The most common fundraising techniques have actually been tailored specifically for mature donors, who have been giving the longest and who are still giving at the highest rate among all generations. The key trait to understand about this generation is that they tend to be loyal, but guarded, donors. Their giving decisions are premeditated, and they are very concerned about their charitable dollars being used wisely and efficiently by nonprofits. This is the demographic that will respond to traditional direct mail appeals, and these donors are also by far the most likely to make their donation by way of a check through the mail. Mature donors are least likely to respond to web-based methods of fundraising, but e-newsletters can be an effective way of reaching them, especially as these allow readers to learn more about the inner workings of your organization before they decide to make a contribution. To make your charity particularly attractive to older donors, try offering annual tax receipts, and also consider putting the insignia of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance or any other group that evaluates accountability. Since mature donors can be wary of trusting new charities, take an opportunity to prove that your charity will use their money wisely.
Baby Boomers: This is the largest of the four generational groups we’re discussing, and what makes these individuals interesting is that they have one foot firmly planted in the online world and offline world respectively. While boomers may not have grown up with the Internet, they are fearless in their adoption of new technology, so you should certainly make an effort to reach out to them through online appeals. They may not be ready to be courted through means such as social media and mobile technology just yet, but they will eagerly research your organization through your website and will be glad to receive your newsletters. In addition, Boomers tend to respond well to donations solicited at retail checkout counters, and will also often make donations during special events. Plus, as the Boomer generation begins to retire, these donors make excellent volunteers, and are wonderful prospects to approach about planned giving and major gifts.
Generation X: Generation X is the most highly educated group out of all the generations we’re discussing, and are also the busiest, and the least loyal donor group. To reach this generation, it’s helpful to make it as easy as possible for them to give, and to make it equally easy to continue giving in the future. A great way of tapping into this set of donors is by soliciting pledges or through sustained giving, such as having a monthly debit from the donor’s checking account that goes directly to your charity. This way, the donor can give steadily without it becoming an inconvenience. Generation X also appreciates an event-based model of fundraising and will often gravitate toward a “Run for the Cure” and similar types of events.
Generation Y: This youngest generation does not have very much money to give yet, but there is still a lot you can do with this age group. While there is a limit to the amount that Generation Y can donate, they are extremely active supporters and promoters for causes. If you catch the attention of people in this young age bracket, they can be quick to spread the word about your charity to everyone they know and help you raise money from ever-larger groups of donors. It’s also good to note that Generation Y tends to use a “What’s in it for me?” rationale more than other generations do, so it’s useful to try solicitation techniques that feed into that mindset. Using premiums and contests in your fundraising can be a great idea, as can youth-oriented events. While Generation Y is less likely to make a direct donation during an event, when they attend they will often happily make purchases from a third-party vendor with proceeds going toward a charitable cause. Finally, it hardly needs to be said that these young donors are the most technologically savvy out of all of the age groups, so social media, donations through text message, and other Internet and mobile-based forms of fundraising will have their best success with Generation Y. Remember that in the coming years, this generation will eventually have more funds to donate, so begin cultivating these donors early!
For more information on raising money from different generations and on using technology to boost giving, read Convio’s recent report online. Also, try searching the Foundation Center’s catalog of Nonprofit Literature using the subject/descriptors “Individual giving”, “Fundraising—donor relations”, or “Cause-related marketing”.
-- Tracy Kaufman, Library Assistant, Foundation Center-New York